Ways to Kill Someone

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Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby GuoBia » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:14 am

Hello! I'm trying to toss up information about how they killed people, like executions and punishment. Just in case you want to hear what I dug up and my take on it.

Right now I'm going off of only the Kickass Tome, Everyday Life in Early Imperial China, Consorts, and a bunch of books about women. I'll head to library after midterms! <3

There were a lot of suicides, executions, and stuff. But how did they actually go about it?

Obviously we know beheading. This seems a relatively commonplace way for at least military men to die. Of ministers this seemed so too, coming from the "public executions" mentioned in Early Life. But there are instances of poison-drinking, which I can't find amongst military men. In the public square, it seems that axes were used to behead people. But I remember in Three Kingdoms mentions of beheading with a sword.

Gan Ning once killed a kitchenboy by tying him to a tree and shooting him with arrows. There was another guy who did this to someone else but I forgot who. The passage in question used the word "arrows" instead of crossbow bolts, leading me to think that he was using a bow and arrow instead of crossbow. This might be for practical purposes, as crossbow bolts are harder to reuse. So why didn't he kill by stabbing? I don't know. Gan Ning was crazy after all.

We have the case that Ling Tong killed Chen Qin with a sabre. Beheading was not mentioned, and Chen Qin reportedly "died of his wounds." But because this was just one incident and because it was accidental, stabbing/slashing someone doesn't seem to be that common a method of killing someone.

Chen Dan was tortured to death on orders of the eunuchs. Lu Zhi had his feet flogged to death (bastinado) but the context doesn't show whether the execution was intentional or not.

We have horror stories about terrible ways to kill someone, like the legends of Daji, but I don't think that these were exactly common, if they were written in such great detail to show the perverse nature of the people they concerned.

Yao Bi and Yao Rao, two sisters, were captured by Qiang raiders. When the sisters refused to worked for them, they were bound together at the waist and drowned. There are other incidents of drowning, but they almost always concern women and children being killed and were highly informal methods, ie Pan Can's wife.

Drowning as suicide seems to be more common amongst women than men. What I think is that it seems to be, in that time, a more "feminine" way to die. In the case of the Three Virtuous Ladies (three women who drowned themselves in fear of losing their chastity), this was PERHAPS to maintain their womanhood rather than dirty their hands with weapons, a "man's thing" and therefore an impure way to kill themselves. But I digress.

The interesting thing is with women, the way they killed (or were ordered to kill themselves) has specific connotations on them. Drowning seems to be the virtuous way, but there are unfaithful women condemned to strangulation with ropes and the such, and occasionally beheading.

But once again, women hung themselves to commit suicide as well. Of Lady Feng, the beauty who became Yuan Shu's concubine, it is reported that "the other women combined to kill her, hanging her body from a beam in the lavatory as if she had committed suicide." Their plan of action reveals that hanging, for women in this time, was normal when committing suicide. In later dynasties, there are ghost stories about a beautiful woman with a red mark on her neck and she seduces a scholar or someone and invites him in and goes to change but then he sees like an old body hanging from the rafters and realizes that his new squeeze is in fact the ghost of a woman who committed suicide.

Year 30: An imperial officer, Wen Xu refused to change sides, but "admiring his courage, Gou Yu gave him a sword to kill himself with." I am not sure of this situation's relevance to the Three Kingdoms period, but it is interesting. In this case, an order to suicide, rather than execution, seems to have come from honor rather than displeasure. Of course this is not always the case. de Cresipgny even claims that "died of grief" is sometimes a euphemism for "enforced suicide." And when a lord doesn't like someone, they can order them to kill themselves. In this way, it is not honorable.
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Crazedmongoose » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:22 am

Suicide:

sword to the neck (held by your right hand across to your left shoulder, sword tilted right across your neck)
poison (mercury seemed to be a common thing, ie. in Water Margin)
hanging


Very popular method of execution was death by strangulation. This was a less severe punishment than beheading.

On the other hand more severe than beheading was to be chopped from the waist. (yiao-zhan)

Ling-chi or death by a thousand cuts is historically contested, in that it may be a mutilation of the corpse rather than torturing someone to death.


As with many cultures (incl. Rome) you can be ordered to take your own life (this happened in Three Kingdoms too, ie. Xun Yu maybe) and that was more honorable and less harsh.
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Lady Wu » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:50 am

Crazedmongoose wrote:On the other hand more severe than beheading was to be chopped from the waist. (yiao-zhan)

Ling-chi or death by a thousand cuts is historically contested, in that it may be a mutilation of the corpse rather than torturing someone to death.

I don't think these were attested in the 3K era?
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:55 am

Awesome post

Their plan of action reveals that hanging, for women in this time, was normal when committing suicide. In later dynasties, there are ghost stories about a beautiful woman with a red mark on her neck and she seduces a scholar or someone and invites him in and goes to change but then he sees like an old body hanging from the rafters and realizes that his new squeeze is in fact the ghost of a woman who committed suicide.


what does he do afterwards?

Of course this is not always the case. de Cresipgny even claims that "died of grief" is sometimes a euphemism for "enforced suicide." And when a lord doesn't like someone, they can order them to kill themselves. In this way, it is not honorable.


but it preserves honour to them and their families, it is an act of self sacrifice for the good of others so perhaps, in it's own unpleasant way, it is an honourable if forced death.
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Jordan » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:03 am

I remember reading about flogging in the tome in Chen Ji's biography. Apparently, the Han under Emperor Wen ruled against mutilating punishments in favor of flogging instead. A lot of people who were beaten with the bastinado were killed in the process, which would have been a pretty painful death.

Oh hell, might as well quote the passage actually.

"During his short time with Cao Cao, Chen Ji put forward a proposal to restore mutilating punishments in place of flogging. In the time of Emperor Wen of Former Han, mutilation had been commuted to strokes of the bastinado, but though the change had been intended well, those who suffered such beatings very often died; simple execution was in practice kinder. Chen Ji's arguments were not accepted."
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Starscream » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:00 pm

Was burying alive a practice in the sanguo era?

Side tracking a bit, I think during the earlier dynasties, some rulers required their concubines to follow them in death, i.e. after the ruler passed away, the concubines were forced to commit suicide or killed (most likely poisoning or strangulation I suppose) and they were buried together with the ruler in his tomb/mausoleum.
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby GuoBia » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:12 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:what does he do afterwards?

When I was told the stories orally it just ended there! But when I found it again in historical literary stuff, either he dies of sickness from the shock or runs away from inn/rented house/guesthouse/etc and reports it to everyone. I think Yuan Mei wrote down one story, where the man in question was asked by the ghost to join her in hanging himself as well next to her. However, he ties the noose around his feet and the woman ghost says, "No, you're doing it the wrong way!" To this, he respond, "No, YOU'RE doing it the wrong way- that's how you ended up like that!" Ashamed, she fades away and never bothers anyone again.

but it preserves honour to them and their families, it is an act of self sacrifice for the good of others so perhaps, in it's own unpleasant way, it is an honourable if forced death.


: O Oh, so it's like "thank you for your service but you have displeased me. In light of your merit I will let you do this instead?" I realized that it was less dishonorable than like sending an execution squad or like calling them to be publically executed but I wasn't sure anything more specific.

I can't find any records of the thousand-cuts in the Han Dynasty or Three Kingdoms! Does anyone have a reference or an incident? : O Or is that the mutilation we were talking about?

Is that mutilation non-lethal?

This is going to sound silly, but how do you die from having your feet flogged? Not that I want to personally find out, but I'm just wondering. ^^"

Ooo, buried alive- last night Lady Wu mentioned Cao Cao burying enemy soldiers alive or something?

Starscream wrote:Side tracking a bit, I think during the earlier dynasties, some rulers required their concubines to follow them in death, i.e. after the ruler passed away, the concubines were forced to commit suicide or killed (most likely poisoning or strangulation I suppose) and they were buried together with the ruler in his tomb/mausoleum.


That's right, and sometimes even servants etc. Of course, during at least Eastern Han, this practice fell severely out of favor and was seen as barbaric and unvirtuous, even. Just to sidetrack this point a little bit more, the primary reason was not to preserve their widowhood or whatever, but more so that they could continue to serve him in the afterlife.

Case point is Sun Quan. I remember when one of his ministers/officers/someone died he ordered his concubine or someone killed and buried with him, and that was a move that was attacked harshly by other scholars. It's in de Crespigny's online publications- Generals of the South or something, I forget. ^^"
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Lady Wu » Fri Oct 15, 2010 8:56 pm

It was Chen Wu whose concubine was forced to die for him.

PS: Cao Cao was said to have buried some tens of thousands of Yuan Shao's soldiers alive, but Pei Songzhi didn't really believe it.
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:40 am

At the exhibit I attended, it was suggested that burying terra cotta representations of people was perhaps a more humane attempt at preserving this ancient practice.
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Re: Ways to Kill Someone

Unread postby Zhuanyong » Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:43 am

Crazedmongoose wrote:Very popular method of execution was death by strangulation. This was a less severe punishment than beheading.


Below is a case in which the famous Lü Bu met his fate (historically)

Cao Cao assented. Seeing that, Lü Bu turned to Liu Bei and said, “You are the most untrustworthy person.”
Soon after, Lü Bu was executed by strangulation. The heads of Lü Bu, Chen Gong, Gao Shun, and some of the other generals were sent to Xu Chang where they were buried.


Honestly, I think if someone were going to get there head cut off anyway to be buried -- they might as well have beheaded them. If done swiftly and without a slip up there would not have been any pain as it would have obviously been with someone being strangled to death. The human body naturally rejects its own demise and I'm sure victims of strangulation fought as much as possible to cling to their very last breath.
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